Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Free at last

The Ramban in his introduction to Sefer Shemos writes that this week's parsha opens by retelling the story of the Bnei Yisroel's descent to Mitzrayim, for that was the beginning of the Egyptian golus and Shemos relates the tale of golus and geulah.

The golus did not end, says the Ramban, “until they returned to their place and the levels of their forefathers. When they left Mitzrayim, even though they were no longer slaves, they were still considered exiles, for they were in a foreign country, lost in a desert. When they arrived at Har Sinai, and later built the Mishkon, and Hashem rested his Shechinah among them, they returned to the levels of their fathers… and were a merkovah for the Shechinah. Then they were considered redeemed. This is the reason that the sefer ends with a discussion of the Mishkon and the fact that Hashem’s Presence was always there.”

We always understood that the Bnei Yisroel were redeemed when they left Mitzrayim, and they were certainly free once they had traversed the Yam Suf. In fact, they sang shirah, which would seem to indicate that at the moment of their celebration at the other side of the sea, they were completely freed from Mitzrayim.

Why was the circle of geulah incomplete until the construction of the Mishkon?

Rav Dovid Cohen, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chevron, explains in his sefer Mizmor LeDovid, based upon the Vilna Gaon (Shir Hashirim 1:4) and the Maharsha (Kesubos 7b) that the redemption of the Bnei Yisroel was accomplished in three stages.

Yetzias Mitzrayim was the foundation of the nation. Matan Torah then created a bond between Hashem and His people, similar to kiddushin, betrothal. The descent of the Shechinah to the Mishkon cemented the relationship, akin to nisuin, marriage.

Rav Cohen quotes the Medrash Tanchuma (Bechukosai 3), which states that the reason Hashem redeemed the Jews was for them to build the Mishkon and for the Shechinah to rest there.

Thus, until the Mishkon was constructed and the Shechinah was among them, their status as geulim had not been reached. Apparently, geulah, freedom, is not achieved until one returns to his pre-golus status.

It is not sufficient to be freed from slavery to be considered redeemed. One must be so removed from his predicament that he is able to perform the task for which he was created.

If someone is sad and depressed, he is not considered healthy until he is energized and happy. In order to be considered cured, it is not enough to no longer be sad. The person must actually be functioning happily. If a convict leaves jail but is under house-arrest, then even when he is in his own home, he is not free.

The purpose of Am Yisroel is to be a merkovah for the Shechinah. Until the nation returned to that level of closeness and worship, they were in exile. Although, superficially, it appeared that they were freed from bondage, they were still captives until they could set about being on the level of the avos.

Sometimes we think that we are free. After all, there are no constraints placed on us, and we can worship and live as we please. In addition, Jews in Israel have returned to our historic homeland. In truth, however, we – and they – are golim until we reach the level of the avos and merit the Mikdosh and Shechinah among us.

To be carefree and aimless, with no values or direction, is not freedom. To be redeemed means to be put in a position to be able to take on your mission and complete it.

Yosef Hatzaddik possessed the ability to maintain the spiritual level of his father, Yaakov, even in golus, but that ability was not shared by the rest of the Bnei Yisroel. For them, going into golus was an automatic yeridah. Yaakov blessed Yosef for his middah, stating, “Becha yivorach Yisroel,” for all times, Jews will bless their children to be as Menashe and Efraim, loyal to their heritage even amidst the ravages of golus.

Since Yosef had this middah of survival in golus, and thus the ability to battle Eisov and his descendants, the first Moshiach will be from his offspring. Moshiach Ben Yosef will prepare the world for geulah and then the goeil, Moshiach Ben Dovid, will arrive.

The middah of self-survival in golus that Yosef personified was inherited from his mother, Rochel. It is for this reason that of all the avos and imahos, she is buried alone along the road to Bais Lechem. Only Rochel has the ability to exist and fulfill her tachlis far from home, alone.

We learned last week in Parshas Vayechi that when Yaakov asked Yosef to bury him in Eretz Yisroel, he excused himself for not burying Yosef’s mother, Rochel, in the Meoras Hamachpeilah or at least in Bais Lechem. Rashi explains that she was laid to rest along the road that leads in and out of Eretz Yisroel so that when the Jewish people would be driven into exile after the churban Bais Hamikdosh, they would stop and pray at her kever. She would rise up and beg for Hashem’s mercy.

When that tragic period occurred, Hashem told Rochel, “Withhold your crying, for there will be a reward for your actions, and the children will return to their home.” The language of the posuk seems strange. Why does it connect the reward for action with the return of her children to their ancestral home?

Perhaps Yaakov was telling Yosef that he buried her outside of Bais Lechem because she had that same ability he possessed, which would allow her to fulfill her shlichus while alone in golus. If someone else were buried there, the klipos of golus would envelope them and they would not be able to be of assistance to the Jews after the churban.

Yaakov, as he was about to pass away, turned to his beloved son, Yosef, and told him that because he possessed the ability to fight Eisov in golus and maintain his level of kedushah, he can now appreciate the mantel that is being placed on him, which he inherited from his mother. “Know that she was placed there for a purpose,” Yaakov said, “and you and she embody that power throughout the ages.” That is why when Yaakov completed his request of Yosef concerning his burial, he said that Am Yisroel would bless their children to be like Menashe and Efraim.

This is also the understanding of the response to the cries of Mama Rochel at the time of Golus Nevuzaradun: “Mini koleich mibechi ve’ainayich min dimah ki yeish sochor lifuloseich… veshovu vonim ligevulon.”

Hashem told her not to cry, because as a result of her strength and the tradition she passed on through Yosef of being able to survive alone in golus, the Jews would return from exile. The two concepts are intertwined, because in reward for maintaining that ability, her son, Yosef, would spawn Moshiach and begin the redemption that will return her children from exile.

Only Rochel would be able to receive that reward, and only she would be able to remain all alone on the side of the road. In order for the others to endure the golus, they had to be united together in the Meoras Hamachpeilah in Chevron.

In order to survive the golus and accomplish our missions, we must be united. If we splinter off and go out on our own, we can become enveloped by the kochos hatumah and sink. We must remain united, with common goals, determined to fulfill our missions, so that we can become geulim. If we want our condition to improve, we have to work on returning to the levels of our avos.

Chazal state that the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed because of sinas chinom. We commonly understand this to mean that it was a punishment. Because this aveirah was prevalent among Klal Yisroel, they were punished with the removal of the Bais Hamikdosh.

We can also understand that in a very actual way, the churban was brought about by silly infighting. There were the camps of the Tzedukim and the Perushim, and they were at each other’s throats. The Tzedukim mercilessly killed the Perushim, starving them and causing them to die of thirst. Their acts of sinah towards their brethren enabled the Romans to militarily defeat the Jews and destroy the Bais Hamikdosh.

Every generation in which the Bais Hamikdosh is not rebuilt is considered to be a generation in which it was destroyed. If it has not been rebuilt in our day, it is because sinas chinom is still among us. If Jews would love each other, care about each other, say “Good Shabbos” to each other, not erect fences between each other, and not establish political parties simply to destroy someone else or promote a personal ego and agenda, Moshiach would be here.

One doesn’t have to be a prophet or a genius to understand how the terrible infighting among our brethren in Eretz Yisroel led to the formation of a government determined to battle our brothers and sisters who cleave to Torah. Now that the government will be removed, we are once again witness to the destruction of people, along with the division and hatred that caused the last government to be formed and which prevents Moshiach Ben Yosef from announcing that the end is near.

Each of us, in our own way, has the ability to end strife, to bring people together, and to enable the sparks of kedushah that endure to be united in one large fireball that will burn through the golus. We must be determined to fulfill our missions. We have to remember what is ikkar and what is tofeil, and the ikkar is for shalom and tov, goodness and peace, to reign supreme in our world.

We have to do more to support good people. And we have to remember that whatever we do and wherever we are, we are bnei Avrohom Yitzchok and Yaakov, heirs of a golden tradition, bearers of an eternal torch. We must ensure that the flame endures and that the traditions continue, so that Rochel and Yosef will rejoin us soon.

If we help each other and unite for mutual benefit, we will be able to make the world a better place. If instead of concentrating on the negative, we overcome unimportant differences so that we can work together to spread goodness, we will light up the world like stars in the night.

There are good people everywhere who learn and teach, spreading Torah, kedushah, goodness, kindness, love, care and concern. They realize mah chovasom ba’olamam, what their obligation in this world is. They recognize that in golus, we have to be b’achdus in order to work to become geulim.

They follow the example set by Moshe Rabbeinu, who left the comforts of his palatial upbringing to feel his brothers’ pain and seek to remedy it. “Vayifen ko vacho vayar ki ein ish.” He saw no one else rising from among the enslaved people to attempt to help their situation. Although there were millions enslaved, he didn’t say that there was little that one person could do. He perceived the need and set out to make a difference.

When it comes to doing what is right, we can’t afford to make cheshbonos. When someone we know is in trouble, we must offer to help. Even if our actual contribution is minimal, the fact that we show that we care, provides succor and strength to the person experiencing difficulty. Just by being there for each other, we help each other. By treating others the way we would like to be treated in happy times and sad ones, we exhibit G-dly middos and we help them cope and thrive. It is never out of place to show that we care. Nothing that we do to show support and thought is ever too small.

People whose hearts are big enough to accommodate others are focused on becoming geulim. Their Torahdike acts of ahavah and achvah make them worthy of being a merkovah leShechinah and kedushah, preparing the world for Moshiach Ben Yosef and Moshiach Ben Dovid. Wherever we are and whatever we do, let us try to emulate such people, support them and become like them, so that we are free at last.



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